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2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (ESV):

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul seems to be describing the body as a home/house/tent/building/dwelling/clothing which he (his "self") is inside of, and he also entertains the possibility of being naked/unclothed, that is, in a disembodied state. In other words, to me it sounds as if Paul is saying that his true "self" (his inner "self") can be either inside or outside his earthly body, and even that his "self" could be put inside a new glorified body (a new house). With this understanding, we could say that for Paul:

  • Earthly life = his "self" inside an earthly body.
  • Bodily death = his "self" in disembodied state.
  • Resurrection = his "self" inside a glorified body.

In all three stages his "self" is the same, whereas bodies are simply houses/tents that the "self" can either enter or leave.

Question: Did Paul believe that his "self" was inside his body?

Note: defining "self" is a bit tricky. Others might feel more comfortable with the word "being". There is also the whole discussion on soul vs. spirit vs. body. For the sake of having some basic understanding, I like the concept of "eternal self" suggested by this answer to the question A living soul cannot exist without a body (Gen 2:7; 1 Cor 15:44-45) but killing the body doesn't kill the soul (Matt 10:28). Is this a contradiction?. But feel free to disagree.


Related questions

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  • Interesting. This is the passage I am at in my reading through all of Paul's letters. I have to admit that the question of "self" is not one that I have struggled with in this passage, nor does the issue really ring a bell. I am still struggling to get through it. I'll keep this in mind as I work through it. Feb 10, 2022 at 5:05

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Paul believed his body was real and that he was the real and only one having that particular body. He could speak of 'himself' but his self was not just his body. There was more to himself than just his body. Whilst living in that particular fleshly body he was aware of it being like a tent which 'covered' him. But tents are rather flimsy constructions, doomed to get ripped (needing repair), battered by the elements (getting threadbare and leaky) and they might even be blown away in a gale, or be consumed by flames. Paul's language (which you quote) gives the idea of being found naked without that 'tent'. Therefore, the idea is given that his invisible self is inside that material 'tent'. It's a good illustration but should be viewed as such. Paul uses other illustrations to expand his meaning.

To understand his illustration in chapter 5, there's a need to go back to chapter 4 where he speaks of "our outer man" which perishes, and "the inward man" which is renewed daily (verse 16). The outer man is mortal man, doomed to perish and eventually die because of sin (Romans 6:23). In Ephesians ch. 2 he speaks of being dead in sin even while alive physically, and raised to newness of life in Christ, also while alive physically. This is what he means in Romans ch. 6. He shows the incompatibility of those who are alive in Christ continuing to sin as mortal humans. A Christian has died to sin, and has come to spiritual life in Christ, even before his earthly 'tent' is destroyed. This is the real, new, spiritual, self that Paul speaks of in the passage you ask about.

His old self that was dead spiritually even while he was aware of having a sinful body, was "crucified with Christ" as he explains:

"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life....

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin...

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:3-11 A.V.)

Paul was not literally crucified. He was transformed by grace while on the road to Damascus. He spoke of a spiritual death within his living organism, at Christ's timing. He himself became "a new creature in Christ" as he explains in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, a bit further on from the verses you quote. So, back to the passage in question... Paul says that Christ died:

"...that they which live should henceforth not live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again... Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:15-17).

To Paul, organic life was one thing which was real and would really end in his physical death though his spiritual self would never die. He likened his body to a 'tent' that would not last forever, but when it perished his real, spiritual self would be found in the presence of the risen Christ, in glory. Yet his 'old man' had already perished! Even before his physical 'tent' became useless, it 'housed' the new man, enlivened by Christ's Spirit. Paul was now found 'in Christ' even while he still inhabited that physical 'tent'.

This is all about which self is meant: the old man of sin, or the new creature in Christ? Both can 'inhabit' the organic 'tent' but not simultaneously. The former has to die for the latter to arise - yet not in a new physical body - the same one, which has yet to cease being a garment to 'cover' the self.

So although the simple answer to your question is "Yes, Paul knew his invisible self was inside the 'tent' of his organic body", your three bullet points need rethinking in light of what Paul has explained elsewhere. The need is to grasp the nuances of the 'old self' and the 'new self', and what the spirit in man that returns to God at physical death is (Ecclesistes 12:7) before more precise bullet points can be given.

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  • 3
    'The old man of sin : the new creation in Christ' : a 'spiritual death within his living organism'. Up-voted +1. And one needs to bear in mind that the spirituality is not from the old man, but from an indwelling Spirit (in union with one's own spirit) - and sin still dwells in flesh, but that flesh shall be put off. Only the true gospel resolves these living experiences.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 12, 2022 at 15:17
  • I agree with your response as well Feb 13, 2022 at 2:59
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“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:28‬ ‭

Jesus distinguishes between the housing and the soul. The soul of man or the inner man or the part of man that is conscious is housed within the human body. It did not preexist its human body, except in name form only.

“The oracle of the word of the Lord concerning Israel: Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:” ‭‭Zechariah‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭

(It’s not helpful that here the word is translated as spirit. And adds unnecessary complications to branch out)

All the souls that God intended to create were written in the book of life from before the Creation of the world. Men merely get erased but no one can add their name for it was already written

The issue with souls (spirits) is that they are immaterial. If they are not inside a housing they cannot manifest themselves.

The Bible speaks of only two kinds of housing

“There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:40‬ ‭

In our terms there are natural bodies, confined to the laws of nature and supernatural bodies, that can interact with nature and without the limitations of nature. And these two categories have diverse forms

Did Paul believe that his self was inside?

Yes of course, but not to the exclusion of his housing. He says as much

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:22‬ ‭

But

“but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:23‬ ‭

So essentially he is saying that what the soul wants or the inner man wants is to serve God but the housing is subject to other inclinations. And he doesn’t know how to escape his own body’s sinful ways

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:24-25‬ ‭

Paul distinguishes what he wants in his mind/soul and what the housing is drawn to by its own sinful nature. But it’s his body, so he is still responsible for his actions committed in the body

Paul definitely didn’t identify himself by his outward person only. Or by his inner person only.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭

But a born again man also has a spirit. This is a perfect, cannot sin, will not sin, has direct access to God, part of man. As humans, all three identify us. And the battle is giving the spirit control over our soul rather than allowing the housing/body to hijack the soul. That’s a continual battle.

You are all three but you can’t take your body with you, it’s corrupt must be replaced. You can regenerate your soul by renewal and you receive a sinless spirit.

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Did Paul believe that his "self" was inside his body?

Yes. Every human being on earth does. That's why we say things like, "I have a body" or "my body is a temple". Each and every one of us "has" a body and "lives" in this body; we have embodied existence. However, that's not really what you mean by this question. What you're really asking is, "did Paul believe that his consciousness/mind 'lived' inside his body and could 'move away' from his body and still exist somewhere in the universe?" Of course, this question presupposes that one's consciousness/mind is a thing that can "dwell" in a body and "move away" from a body, like a human living in a house and leaving the house to go shop for groceries. However, there is nothing in the text of 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 that suggests Paul had any such notions in mind (essentially, you're thinking too hard). Ok, so, what does 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 actually mean? Good question. Let's find out.

A Thorough Analysis of 2 Corinthians 5:1-4:

[2 Corinthians 5:1-4] For we know that if the tent of our earthly house should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 And indeed, in this we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling which is from heaven, 3 if indeed also having been clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 And indeed, being in the tent we groan, being burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that the mortal may be swallowed up by life. (BLB)

V.1a [For we know that if the tent of our earthly house should be destroyed]

The "tent of our earthly house" is undoubtedly a reference to our material, fleshly bodies. All human beings are inherently mortal, that is, subject to death, as their bodies can be "demolished" or "thrown down" [that is what the Greek word καταλυθῇ [a form of the verb καταλύω {Strong's G2647}] denotes), that is, "destroyed". Our "earthly houses" deteriorate and decay; they are degradable and perishable. Essentially, all physical bodies have a definite end, that is, a point in time whereby all vital functions cease to be, and the life of the person is terminated (however, this is not the end for all, particularly for believers in Christ, as we will see). The parallels between 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 are indisputable and undeniable. A common interpretation is that the apostle Paul is speaking, in v.1-4 of 2 Cor. 5, about the afterlife, namely, the intermediate state. However, we will see that such an understanding is unreasonable and that the interpretation that Paul is speaking about our resurrection bodies is much more tenable. So, v.1 parallels v.36 of 1 Cor. 15, where Paul states that what we sow "does not come to life unless it dies". V.42-44 make it clear that what is sown is our perishable, natural (physical) bodies. In v.36, Paul is making the point that our physical body (or "earthly house") cannot "come to life", that is, be raised imperishable, immortal, glorious, and powerful, unless it dies. And here, in 2 Cor. 5:1, Paul is saying that if our "earthly house" (physical body) is destroyed (dies), we have a "building from God... eternal in the heavens". Both 1 Cor. 15:36 and 2 Cor 5:1 talk about our physical bodies being destroyed, and so it is logical to conclude that the "building from God... eternal in the heavens" is a reference to our immortal, glorious, spiritual bodies given to us by God, which is precisely how our mortal bodies (that which we "sow") "come to life" in the context of 1 Cor. 15:36! There are many more parallels that make it conclusive that what Paul is teaching in v.1-4 of 2 Cor. 5 is not something different than what he teaches in 1 Cor. 15:35-58, but in fact the same thing.

V.1b [we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.]

Here's yet another unequivocal parallel with 1 Corinthians 15. In v.37 of the same chapter, Paul, speaking about the resurrection body, tells us that "God gives it a body as He has designed, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body". Here Paul tells us that we have a "building from God, a house not made with hands..." No doubt, Paul's words here are a reference to our resurrection bodies (note also the upgrade from "tent" to "building"). It is quite interesting to note that Paul, right after speaking about physical death just a couple of words ago ("we know that if the tent of our earthly house should be destroyed"), does not go on to talk about our disembodied spirits/souls supposedly being comforted in the bosom of Abraham or in paradise/heaven in perfect bliss in the presence of God, but instead talks about our resurrection bodies! Allegedly, the spirits/souls of believers go to be comforted in bliss in the presence of God upon their death. However, Paul, breaking the chronology, altogether ignores this "conscious intermediate state" and moves straight to the bodies we receive upon our resurrection. Don't worry, it'll only get worse.

V.2 [And indeed, in this we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling which is from heaven]

Paul tells us that we are groaning and longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. This is no surprise, considering just how weak, fragile, and inadequate our current mortal bodies are. They inescapably degenerate with age and are subject to all sorts of diseases and illnesses. Not to mention the fact that they are inherently sinful, fettered by all sorts of fleshly passions and cravings. Total bliss and comfort in the presence of God in paradise/Abraham's bosom in our spirits/souls, completely free of all the physical restraints of our current bodies (again, how they are frail and deficient, subject to any number of sicknesses and disorders, as well as to old age, and, of course, sinful desires) is unarguably infinitely better than this. It makes you wonder why Paul doesn't say we are groaning and longing for such circumstances, but instead to be "clothed with our dwelling which is from heaven". Oh well, at least he doesn't say that we aren't groaning for such circumstances ... well, not yet anyway. There is yet another parallel with 1 Corinthians 15 here. Here we are said to long to be "clothed with our heavenly dwelling", and 1 Cor. 15:47-49 speak about the "man from heaven" (v.47), the "heavenly man" (v.48), and how we are to "bear the likeness of the heavenly man" (v.49). And there's even another undeniable parallel with 1 Corinthians 15. V.53-54 of that chapter talk about the perishable and mortal being clothed with the imperishable and immortal. Here, Paul talks about being clothed with our "dwelling from heaven", which is a "building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens"!

V.3 [if indeed also having been clothed, we will not be found naked.]

Putting verses 2 and 3 together, Paul's entire statement is this; "And indeed, in this we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling which is from heaven, if indeed also having been clothed, we will not be found naked." Paul tells us that we long to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, but the motivation he gives for this longing goes against all manner of reasoning. He tells us that we long to be clothed, so having been clothed, we will "not be found naked". What is this a reference to? It can only be the disembodied intermediate state. It cannot refer to our current state, as we are not naked in our current state, but are clothed with a tent, that is, an earthly house, as Paul tells us in v.1. If it is not a reference to our current state, nor the state we are in after our resurrection, then it can only refer to the disembodied intermediate state. Why, then, do we groan to be clothed so that, having been clothed, we will not be found naked? In being found naked, we will be in bliss and comfort in paradise/Abraham's bosom in the presence of God and Jesus! Even if that's not as desirable as our life after the resurrection, it is, once again, infinitely more desirable than the current bodies that we have (frail and deficient, subject to old age and deterioration and sinful lusts, as well as to all sorts of sicknesses and conditions)! We should very much wish to be "found naked". And yet, Paul tells us the opposite. However, all hope is not yet lost. It might still be possible that Paul believed in a conscious intermediate state where believers are in bliss and comfort in a paradise in God's presence. Perhaps, though the same won't be true after we've considered verse 4.

V.4 [And indeed, being in the tent we groan, being burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that the mortal may be swallowed up by life.]

Once again Paul tells us that we groan in "the tent", namely, our "earthly house" or material bodies. This is, again, no wonder. Indeed, we are burdened in this tent, as the apostle says. I am personally very fit, though the same cannot be said for many other believers, and about humanity as a whole, and even I have some difficult days body-wise. Of course, I will not be quite so fit forever! And indeed, I know many (some very close to me) who are incredibly burdened by these weak and perishable bodies. But that's for another time. The point is, the apostle Paul's words are some of the truest words; we groan, being burdened, in our fleshly tent. What Paul says next is astonishing. We groan because "we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed"! Indeed, we are all anxiously waiting to receive our resurrection bodies, so that we may be rid of these weak and fragile "tents" once and for all time. Unexpectedly, however, Paul tells us that we are groaning because we do not wish to be unclothed (that is, to be dead and disembodied) but to be clothed! Again, "unclothed" can only be a reference to the state of the dead, as currently we have an article of clothing, i.e. our earthly tent/house (however weak and frail this attire may be). If indeed upon death believers are transferred to an intermediate state where they experience bliss and comfort in paradise in God's presence, why would we, in our current frail, inadequate bodies that are subject to old age and disease and sinful desires, not wish to be "unclothed", that is, to be in this state (dead)? How Paul's words here, put together with all his previous words (as we have previously discussed), can be reconciled with the notion of going to paradise/Abraham's bosom upon death to be in total bliss and comfort in the presence of God and Jesus, I'll let the ones who believe in such concept figure out.

There are several parallels here with 1 Corinthians 15. For example, Paul says that we "groan, being burdened" in these mortal bodies. Well, in verses 42 and 43 of 1 Cor. 15, Paul says that what is sown is "perishable" and sown in "dishonour" and "weakness". Without a question, one would "groan" and be "burdened" by a weak, perishable, dishonourable body. He also says here that we "wish... to be clothed". Well, in v.42-43 of 1 Cor. 15, Paul says that what is "sown" (i.e. our physical bodies, which are perishable, dishonourable, and weak) is "raised imperishable", and in "glory" and "power". I don't think anyone would argue with the assertion that one would wish to be "clothed" if by being clothed they are forever rid of perishability, dishonour, and weakness, and given imperishability, glory, and power! And finally, here in v.4 of 2 Cor. 5, Paul says that in being "clothed", the mortal is "swallowed" up by life. In 1 Cor. 15:54, Paul says that when the mortal and perishable have been clothed with immortality and imperishability, the saying, "death has been swallowed up in victory", will have come to pass. Indeed, if death has been "swallowed up in victory", all that remains is life! And if mortality is "clothed" with immortality, mortality must be gone as well, since immortality and mortality are polar opposites. And since immortality is, by definition, the quality of living forever or not being subject to death, death itself must necessarily be gone forever! The point is, when death is "swallowed up" in victory, all that remains is life, which Paul tells us swallows up "the mortal" (if death is truly gone for good, then mortality is necessarily gone for good as well, as all that dies is, by definition, mortal).

Taking everything into consideration, it is demonstrably clear that what Paul is teaching in 2 Corinthians 5 is the same as what he taught in 1 Corinthians 15, not something different, namely, that the "building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens", i.e. the "dwelling which is from heaven", is not something we receive upon our death, but the immortal, imperishable, glorious, and powerful bodies we receive upon our resurrection. Now, we'll move on to verses 5-10.

An Examination of 2 Corinthians 5:5-10:

[2 Corinthians 5:5-10] And God has prepared us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a pledge of what is to come. 6 Therefore we are always confident, although we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, then, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we aspire to please Him, whether we are here in this body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. (BLB)

V.5 [And God has prepared us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a pledge of what is to come.]

God has prepared us to receive our "dwelling from heaven", that is, our imperishable, glorious bodies, and He has done this through His Son, who has Himself received an imperishable, glorious body, giving us the Spirit as a guarantee of this inheritance (i.e. our resurrection into immortality, imperishability, glory, and power).

  • Romans 6:5 "For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." (We will receive a resurrection like Jesus, namely, a resurrection to immortality and glory and power.)

  • Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you. (This is a very significant passage. In 2 Corinthians 5:5, Paul says that the Spirit is a "pledge" of what is to come, namely, our receiving of the "house from God... eternal in the heavens", that is, "our dwelling which is from heaven". And here Paul explicitly states that God will "give life" to our mortal bodies through the same Spirit that currently dwells in us, given to us by none other than God, who has "prepared us for this very purpose", according to 2 Cor. 5:5.)

  • Romans 8:29 because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be firstborn among many brothers. (We were predestined to be conformed into Jesus' image, as He was the "firstborn among many brother". This, no doubt, includes being made immortal and imperishable, as Christ was, for Christ was the "firstfruits" of those who belong to Him, that is, the first of those who would be resurrected in imperishable, immortal, glorious bodies [see 1 Corinthians 15:20-23].)

  • Romans 9:23 that He might also make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, (God prepared us for glory in advance. This "glory" certainly contains the glory spoken of when we receive our powerful, glorious bodies at the resurrection.)

  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all having been unveiled in face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit. (We are being transformed into the same glorious image of Christ. Christ's image is so glorious partly because of the powerful, immortal, imperishable body that He received upon His resurrection.)

  • Ephesians 1:10-14 for the administration of the fullness of the times, to bring together all things in Christ—the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth— 11 in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of the One working all things according to the counsel of His will 12 for us, the ones having first trusted in Christ, to be to the praise of His glory, 13 in whom you also, having heard the word of truth, the gospel your of salvation, in whom also having believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance to the redemption of the acquired possession, to the praise of His glory. (Here Paul states that we have been predestined, that is, prepared beforehand by God to obtain an inheritance. The Spirit given to us by God is a promise/guarantee of us receiving that very inheritance.)

  • Philippians 3:20-21 For our citizenship exists in the heavens, from whence also we are awaiting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our body of humiliation, conformed to the body of His glory, according to the working enabling Him even to subdue all things to Himself. (In 2 Cor. 5:5, Paul tells us that God has prepared us for a purpose, namely, the purpose of receiving our "dwelling from heaven", our "building from God... eternal in the heavens". Indeed, our citizenship is in the heavens, where the Lord Jesus will transform our lowly bodies to be conformed to His own glorious body ... in other words, He will resurrect us immortal, imperishable, glorious, and powerful!)

  • 1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, (The "living hope" that we have through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is, in part, the hope of having glorious, imperishable bodies, as it is through Christ's resurrection that we are resurrected [see 1 Corinthians 15:12-23]. And surely, part of our imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance reserved in heaven for us is the imperishable, immortal, glorious "house from God... eternal in the heavens", that is, "our dwelling from heaven".)

V.6-7 [Therefore we are always confident, although we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.]

"Therefore (because God has prepared us for the purpose of receiving our imperishable inheritance reserved in the heavens [i.e. our imperishable, glorious resurrection bodies], of which He has given His Spirit as a pledge/guarantee) we are always confident." Of course, we must acknowledge that while we are in our "tent", our "earthly house", we are away from the Lord Jesus. Nevertheless, we walk by faith and not by sight. Although we cannot currently see our Lord, we have faith that some day we will be with Him; at home with Him.

V.8 [We are confident, then, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.]

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood (and misquoted) verses in the New Testament. How so? Usually, when people quote this verse to support post-mortal consciousness, they say that Paul says "to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord". However, Paul does not equate being "away from the body" and being "at home with the Lord". Though, the problem is not the fact that the traditional interpretation (where this verse is used to support post-mortal consciousness) has Paul equating being "away from the body" and being "at home with the Lord"; not at all. The problem lies with how "away from the body" is interpreted. The traditional interpretation is this; "...we would rather be away from the body [and in our spirits/souls] and at home with the Lord." In this way, they take this verse as support of the notion of a conscious intermediate state (particularly one where believers are comforted in the presence of God). However, Paul does not say this. In fact, Paul does not tell us what it means to be "away from the body". So, what does it mean to be "away from the body"?

All throughout the preceding verses (particularly v.1-4), Paul has contrasted the earthly tent/body with the "building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (i.e. our resurrection bodies), which we long to be "clothed with" so that we may not be "found naked" (that is, in a disembodied state in our spirit/soul), for we are groaning in and are burdened by these "earthly houses/tents". Undoubtedly, the "body" in question in v.8 is the "earthly house" Paul has previously spoken of and has contrasted with the "dwelling from heaven" which we receive upon our resurrection and wish to be clothed with, as opposed to being "unclothed" (again, in a disembodied state). Therefore, the interpretation that best fits the context is this: "...we would rather be away from the body [and in our heavenly dwelling] and at home with the Lord". Paul is telling us that we would prefer to be away from our present physical bodies ("earthly house"), in which we groan and are burdened, and in our "heavenly dwellings" at home with the Lord Jesus. Paul has previously told us that what it is that we long for is to be clothed with our "dwelling from heaven", since we are burdened by our current physical bodies. So when he says that we would rather be away from the body, that is, that we prefer to be away from the body, it's logical to conclude that being "away from the body" entails being in our "heavenly dwelling", which Paul has just told us that we groan and long for! And when do we receive said "heavenly dwelling"? Upon our resurrection. And so when are we "at home with the Lord"? Upon our resurrection! This agrees with what Paul says elsewhere.

[1 Thessalonians 4:15-17] For this we declare to you in the word of the Lord, that we the living, remaining unto the coming [παρουσία] of the Lord, shall not precede those having fallen asleep, 16 because the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we, the living remaining, will be caught away together with them in the clouds for the meeting of the Lord in the air; and so we will be always with the Lord. (BLB)

When do we meet the Lord Jesus? Upon His coming. And when will we be "always with the Lord"? Upon His coming. And what happens at this time? The dead in Christ are resurrected in imperishable, immortal, glorious bodies, receiving their "heavenly dwelling", that is, their "building from God... eternal in the heavens", then those who are alive in Christ are transformed likewise; it is at this point all believers will forever be with the Lord. This interpretation also agrees with the words of Jesus Himself.

[John 14:1-3] Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house there are many mansions. And if not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also. (BLB)

When does Jesus say He receives us? The moment we die? Or is it when He comes again, at His Parousia (παρουσία)? Jesus Himself tells us. He receives us into the place He has prepared for us, not upon our death, but at His coming! If we were with Him all along during the intermediate state, He can't really receive us, can He (you can't receive a person if they're already with you)? Jesus makes it explicit; we are received by Him upon His coming, where we are resurrected in our immortal, imperishable bodies, our "dwelling from heaven", as the apostle Paul tells us. We are not with Jesus before this. Both Paul and Jesus make it clear that we are with the Lord only after His coming, not before. If during the intermediate state we are in Christ's presence, then you'd think that either Paul or Jesus would have mentioned the intermediate state somewhere when talking about being in His presence. Instead, when Jesus talks about us being with Him, He talks about it happening at His coming (John 14:1-3). Likewise, when Paul talks about being with Jesus, He talks about it happening at His coming (this is true in both 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and 2 Corinthians 5:8, since 2 Cor. 5 is talking about receiving our "dwelling from heaven", i.e. our immortal, imperishable bodies, which we receive only upon the resurrection, which happens only upon the coming [παρουσία] of our Lord).

In conclusion, Paul is not saying that we will be present with the Lord in a disembodied state in our spirits/souls in 2 Corinthians 5:8. Such an interpretation does not agree with the context whatsoever (which is unquestionably about our glorious, imperishable resurrection bodies from heaven, and about how we groan, longing to clothe ourselves with them, as opposed to being "naked" and "unclothed", that is, dead and in a disembodied state) and does not agree with what Paul and Jesus say elsewhere (we wouldn't really be "meeting" the Lord Jesus upon His coming, and He wouldn't really be "receiving" us upon His coming, if we were with Him in heaven/paradise all along). A better interpretation is that being "away from the body" entails, not being in a disembodied state in our soul/spirit, but being in our "heavenly dwelling", that is, in the imperishable, immortal, glorious body that we are resurrected with at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, at which point we will be caught up to the clouds to meet Him and thereafter spend eternity with Him.

V.9-10 [So we aspire to please Him, whether we are here in this body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad.]

Whether we are in this life or the next, we strive to content our Lord at all times, for we know that we will all appear before His judgement seat, so that He will render each one according to what they have done in the body (that is, in this life), whether good or bad (cf. Matt. 16:27; John 5:22; 27; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rev. 2:23; 20:12-13; 22:12).

I hope this helps! A lot more could be said about many of these verses, but there isn't enough space in this answer to say it all. Have a great day. :)

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The inner "self" or the "inner man" (Rom. 7:22; Eph. 3:16; 1 Peter 3:4), the core personality of Paul and any other man survives death of body and continues to live even in a greater intensity of the presence of God. That's why Paul says that he desires his body to dissolve, which will be a condition for his being with Christ (that is to say, with a greater intensity of union with Christ, for even while in body Paul experiences Christ’s presence and in-dwelling, even joint life in him /Gal. 2:20/), but to be in body is more beneficial for those to whom he preaches Gospel (Phil. 1:23).

This makes fool of those who purport to be Christians and simultaneously claim that human personality, sometimes called also "soul", dies together with body, thus abolishing and annulling the great tradition of praying to saints (who albeit dead, must live in order to listen to our prayers and intercede for us to God); for, in fact, how Paul could consider his annihilation as better than being alive in body, unless he did not consider the death of body as his annihilation at all, but as his transmission to a greater intensity of life in and with God.

But the bodiless state is not the final one, for as Paul says, "perishable should be clad in imperishability" (1 Cor. 15:53), that is to say, the perishable body will be re-united as imperishable to the soul/bodiless personality of a deceased man and the eternal status will be that of a full personality with soul and body both clad in immortality and imperishability by grace of God.

Moreover, as Paul elsewhere says, not all humans will die and be disjuncted from their bodies, but those who will live to the Second parousia of Christ, will be taken to sky to meet Him there and be with Him eternally without experiencing death at all (1 Cor. 15:51).

Great mystery, and joyful one for that matter. Holy Apostle Paul who are with Christ now, while your body lies in Rome, pray to Him for us.

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